Le­gal trans­parency

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By CAO YIN caoyin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The top court opens its door to the pub­lic, pro­vid­ing a rare chance for or­di­nary cit­i­zens to look into how it func­tions.

Bei­jing res­i­dent Liu Yang had not imag­ined that he would one day be sit­ting in China’s top court to lis­ten to a case and af­ter­wards to dis­cuss the law with judges in per­son.

But on Wed­nes­day, Liu and some 80 res­i­dents from ev­ery walk of life stepped into the Supreme Peo­ple’s Court, where Chi­nese In­ter­net gi­ants Qi­hoo 360 and Ten­cent aired a dis­pute over un­fair busi­ness prac­tices.

“It’s my first time to visit the top court and par­tic­i­pate in a hear­ing. I felt both solemn and ex­cited,” said the 25-yearold em­ployee of an In­ter­net com­pany.

“It’s a help­ful ex­pe­ri­ence. I have been study­ing the online com­pa­nies and keep­ing my eye on this high-pro­file dis­pute,” he said. “At­tend­ing the hear­ing is much bet­ter than just tour­ing around the court.”

Wed­nes­day was the an­nual open day of the top court, which is lo­cated a few hun­dred me­ters from Tian’an­men Square.

The court has opened its doors to the pub­lic each year since 2009, and the event was broad­cast via its mi­cro blog.

On the same day, more than 800 courts na­tion­wide opened to the pub­lic to help peo­ple un­der­stand more about how the courts work and to take use­ful ad­vice, said Sun Jun­gong, spokesman for the Supreme Peo­ple’s Court.

In China, res­i­dents can get ap­proval to lis­ten to cases by ap­ply­ing to the courts and show­ing an iden­tity card. But the chance of get­ting a seat in the top court’s pub­lic gallery is slim, Sun said.

“Most cases end in pro­vin­cial or even grass­roots courts. It’s rare that a case is ap­pealed to the Supreme Peo­ple’s Court,” he said.

Open­ing doors to the pub­lic, fol­lowed by face-to-face com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween judges and res­i­dents, pro­motes ju­di­cial trans­parency and rep­re­sents im­por­tant steps that help to en­sure fair ver­dicts, he said.

The courts have also be­gun to use mul­ti­me­dia and so­cial me­dia — mi­cro blogs and WeChat, for ex­am­ple — to share in­for­ma­tion with the pub­lic, he said.

By Wed­nes­day, the court had at­tracted more than 240,000 fol­low­ers on Sina Weibo, a lead­ing Chi­nese mi­cro blog plat­form.

The broad­cast­ing of tri­als dates back to Au­gust, when the Ji­nan In­ter­me­di­ate Peo­ple’s Court re­leased daily records of the trial of for­mer se­nior of­fi­cial Bo Xi­lai, who was sen­tenced to life im­pris­on­ment for bribery and em­bez­zle­ment.

Shi Shusi, a pop­u­lar mi­croblog­ger who was in­vited to par­tic­i­pate in the tour on Wed­nes­day, spoke highly of the courts’ moves to­ward open­ness, but he also sug­gested that they should use new so­cial me­dia tools to have even more di­rect in­ter­ac­tion with ne­ti­zens, in­stead of just re­leas­ing in­for­ma­tion.

“We need to break through lim­its by ask­ing judges to talk with the pub­lic — or in other words, we want ‘judge stars’ who will boost cred­i­bil­ity,” he said.

Zhao Zhengbin, a crim­i­nal lawyer who was also part of the tour, said that trans­parency should be en­forced in daily work, too.

“En­sur­ing that ev­ery le­gal pro­ce­dure is open or un­der a spot­light is more im­por­tant than this visit,” Zhao said.

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